Blue-and-white athletics stars set to shine

Kroyter, Frenkel, Schwartz, Halevi headline top talent at 75th national championships.

HIGH JUMPER Danielle Frenkel 311 (photo credit: Arnon Atzmon)
HIGH JUMPER Danielle Frenkel 311
(photo credit: Arnon Atzmon)
The 2012 London Olympics may still be more than a year away, but Israel’s athletics stars will have an ideal opportunity to set the criteria for the Games when they compete in the 75th Israeli Athletics Championships at Hadar Yosef Stadium in Tel Aviv over the next two days.
The championships, which will be open to the public free of charge, will also be one of the last chances for Israelis to book their place at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, which get underway on August 27.
Pole-vaulter Jillian Schwartz has already assured her place in South Korea, but will be hoping to clear at least 4.50-meters on Wednesday to meet the Olympic criteria.
The 31-year-old, who made aliya from the US in 2009, represented America in the 2004 Athens Olympics and has a personal best of 4.72m.
Schwartz has already cleared 4.50m this season, but she did so on April 30, a day before the earliest date to set the criteria and she will need to jump the height once more if she’s to book an early flight to London.
With no other Israeli women anywhere close to challenging her, the Israel Athletics Association invited to the championships Belarusian Anastasiya Shvedova, who has a personal best of 4.65m, to help push Schwartz as high as possible.
Another of Wednesday’s highlights will be the men’s high jump competition.
Teenage sensation Dima Kroyter, who set a personal best of 2.28m earlier this year to qualify for the World Championships, will be looking to bounce back from his relatively disappointing major senior debut after only clearing 2.17m in the European Championship qualifiers in Barcelona in March.
He will be coming up against Niki Palli, who has a personal best of 2.30m, but has struggled with injuries over the last couple of years and Russian Andrey Tereshin, who jumped as high as 2.36m five years ago.
“My goal is to clear 2.20m,” Kroyter said. “I believe I will do that and will then set my sights on 2.25m. In two weeks time I will be competing in the European junior Championships and the Israeli championships will be an ideal preparation.”
After competing in the 2008 Beijing Games, Palli will be happy to settle for coming close to his former best at Hadar Yosef.
“I haven’t competed in the national championships in three years and I’ll be pleased if I can clear 2.20m,” the 24- year-old said. “Having Kroyter competing against me is great because we will push each other to success. I feel that I’m still far from setting the Olympic criteria, but I’ll have other events in the future to do so.”
Also Wednesday, Yochai Halevi, who will be crowned as 2010 Israeli male athlete of the year, will be looking to improve his personal best in the triple jump by nine centimeters to 16.85m to qualify for the upcoming worlds.
The fastest man and woman in Israel will also be decided on Wednesday in the finals of the 100m.
The undoubted highlight on Thursday will be the women’s high jump final.
Rising-star Danielle Frenkel, 2010 Israeli female athlete of the year, will be aiming to improve her Israeli record of 1.94m by a singe centimeter to set the Olympic criteria.
Former Israeli champion Ma’ayan Foreman will be Frenkel’s main challenger.
“I expect to break my record and meet the criteria,” a confident Frenkel said.